Pot Policies All Over the Map
Fully legal in 11 states, medical pot okay in 22 states, much division over how to handle it.
“When my gut inflames, then my larger joints inflame and so like overnight, I can have my knee the size of a softball and my ankle goes awry and then it can also affect my eyes,” said Robyn, describing the inflammation caused by colitis.
She credits marijuana, which is legal in Colorado, with reducing her symptoms.
“It works — it worked for me,” Robyn said.
Robyn, who lives in northern Wisconsin, travels to Colorado about every six months to restock her supply. It is a risky journey: Although Gov. Tony Evers has proposed legalizing medical marijuana, its use remains illegal in Wisconsin. As a result, Robyn asked that her last name and exact location not be revealed — she has not even told her own family.
“I have enough (marijuana) in the house,” she said, “that they could arrest me.”
She had tried many other things before testing marijuana, ranging from antibiotics to cutting dairy and meat from her diet to a variety of over-the-counter pills.
“I did everything, and nothing, nothing made a change,” Robyn said. “All other roads had closed for me — that’s how I was feeling at the time.”
University of Wisconsin-Madison political science professor Barry Burden said Evers’ election has sparked a more serious discussion around marijuana in the state. But the Democratic governor will have a difficult time with legalization as Republican leaders are pushing back against the idea.
Burden said it is not a purely partisan fight, as “the issue does not divide Democrats and Republicans the way other issues do, so there might be some unconventional coalitions that support and oppose the passage of the Evers proposal.”
Elsewhere, that debate has long been settled. In 1996, California became the first state to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes. Since then, 32 additional states plus Washington, D.C., have joined in. Eleven of those states, plus D.C., also have legalized marijuana for recreational adult use. In the Upper Midwest, recreational use was legalized by Michigan in 2018, and it is expected to become legal in Illinois in 2020.
Wisconsin has no legal programs for either medical marijuana or recreational marijuana.
Wisconsin allows the use of cannabidiol, or CBD, in a form that does not have the psychoactive effect. CBD is available over the counter in Wisconsin.
There are 11 other states that, like Wisconsin, have CBD-only programs, according to the Cannabis Business Times.
New York and New Jersey both considered but failed to pass proposals for recreational marijuana legalization in 2019. Ohio has a proposed ballot initiative in 2019 for full legalization, while voters in Arizona, Mississippi, Nebraska and South Dakota will likely get the chance to vote on it in 2020.
A 2018 study by Colorado’s Division of Criminal Justice showed few negative effects of legalization. It found marijuana use among juveniles showed no significant changes in the first five years of recreational legalization. Use among minors also was not higher than the national average, which includes most states where recreational marijuana is not legal.
The proportion of driving under the influence incidents involving cannabis increased from 12% to 15% between 2014 and 2017, but overall, citations were down. And while the number of fatal crashes involving people who had cannabinoids in their bloodstream did increase, the authors of the report warned against any historical comparison of crash rates because the state has heightened drug testing since legalization.
On the economic side, marijuana-related tax revenue shot up dramatically, from $68 million in 2014 to $247 million in 2017.
Not everyone in Colorado is on board, however. Justin Smith, sheriff of Larimer County, Colorado, said when voters passed Amendment 64 allowing for recreational consumption of marijuana, the notion was that non-users would not be bothered by smoke or other nuisances since the law limits marijuana use to an individual’s home.
But lawmakers recently approved a measure allowing establishments to create “social use” areas for consuming cannabis.
“We’re constantly getting hit with a variety of bills that loosen and loosen and loosen the regulations,” said Smith, who opposes legalization. “There wasn’t a line drawn that we’ve stood at. There was a line drawn that decriminalized marijuana under certain circumstances, and that line continues to move forward.”
Since legalization, Smith said he has seen a rise in home invasions in his county that are tied to theft of marijuana or its profits. The Colorado report found a 26% increase in violent crimes across the state from 2013 to 2017, including a 22% increase in robberies.
But the report warned that “it is not possible to definitively separate the change in marijuana laws from other changes that have occurred in Colorado, both societal and legal.”
This story was produced as part of an investigative reporting class at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication under the direction of Dee J. Hall, Wisconsin Watch’s managing editor. Wisconsin Watch’s collaborations with journalism students are funded in part by the Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment at UW-Madison. The nonprofit Wisconsin Watch (www.WisconsinWatch.org) collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by Wisconsin Watch do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.
More about the Legalizing of Marijuana
- The Cannabis Question: Pot Arrests 4 Times Higher for Blacks - Izabela Zaluska - Jul 15th, 2019
- Independent Business Association of Wisconsin (IBAW) presents Marijuana, Changing Laws, and Its Effect on the Workplace - Independent Business Association of Wisconsin - Jul 4th, 2019
- Back in the News: Vos Wants Medical Marijuana Bill - Bruce Murphy - Jul 1st, 2019
- Who Uses Cannabis in Wisconsin? - Olivia Herken - Jun 24th, 2019
- Pot Policies All Over the Map - Carter Thomson - Jun 23rd, 2019
- Michigan Struggles With Legal Pot - Rachelle Wilson - Jun 21st, 2019
- Rep. Sargent’s Lonely Pro-Pot Campaign - Hibah Ansari - May 27th, 2019
- Murphy’s Law: Republican Pushes for Medical Marijuana - Bruce Murphy - May 14th, 2019
- State Behind The Times on Pot Laws? - Analise Pruni - Apr 30th, 2019
- GOP Legislators Kill Medical Pot Proposal - Laurel White - Apr 26th, 2019
- Medical Marijuana Would Provide an Economic Boost to Wisconsin - State Rep. David Bowen - Apr 23rd, 2019
- Sargent Pushes Legal Pot Bill. Again - Laurel White - Apr 19th, 2019
- The Most Dangerous Thing about Marijuana in Wisconsin is that it is Illegal - State Rep. Melissa Sargent - Apr 18th, 2019
- Op Ed: Yes and No on Marijuana - Bill Kaplan - Apr 15th, 2019
- Advocates of Legal Pot Still Face Hurdles - Suzie Kazar - Apr 7th, 2019
- Legislature Urged to Clarify Pot Laws - John Davis - Mar 27th, 2019
- Op Ed: State Is Ready for Medical Marijuana - State Sen. Jon Erpenbach - Feb 23rd, 2019
- The Contrarian: Evers Dead Wrong On Pot Convictions - George Mitchell - Feb 20th, 2019
- Evers Proposes Medical Marijuana - Laurel White - Feb 19th, 2019
- Rep. Zamarripa Statement on Gov. Evers Plan to Legalize Medical Marijuana - State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa - Feb 18th, 2019
- Shilling Backs Gov. Evers’ Medical Marijuana Push - State Sen. Jennifer Shilling - Feb 18th, 2019
- Bowen Applauds Governor Evers’ Marijuana Proposals - State Rep. David Bowen - Feb 18th, 2019
- Sen. Erpenbach Applauds Gov. Evers’ Medical Marijuana Proposal - State Sen. Jon Erpenbach - Feb 18th, 2019
- Gov. Evers Announces Proposal to Reform Wisconsin’s Marijuana Laws - Gov. Tony Evers - Feb 18th, 2019
- WJI supports Gov. Evers’ cannabis initiative - Wisconsin Justice Initiative - Feb 18th, 2019
- The State of Politics: Republicans May Oppose Medical Marijuana - Steven Walters - Jan 28th, 2019
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- Everyone Wants Legal Pot! - Gretchen Schuldt - Dec 31st, 2018
- Will Referendums Lead to Legal Pot? - Edgar Mendez - Nov 16th, 2018
- A Sweep for Marijuana Referendums! - Gretchen Schuldt - Nov 7th, 2018
- 52 Legislative Candidates Support Legal Pot - Isiah Holmes - Oct 11th, 2018
- Election Asks Voters About Legal Pot - John Davis - Sep 29th, 2018
- Pot Referendums on November Ballot - Gretchen Schuldt - Aug 30th, 2018
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- County Board Okays Pot Referendum - Gretchen Schuldt - May 25th, 2018
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- Public Hearing on Proposed Marijuana Referendum Set for Thursday - Sup. John F. Weishan, Jr. - May 9th, 2018
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- Supervisor Weishan Proposing Marijuana Referendum for November Ballot - Sup. John F. Weishan, Jr. - May 3rd, 2018
- March for Cannabis – 8th Annual March to Legalize Cannabis in Wisconsin - Southeastern WI NORML - Apr 27th, 2018
- Op Ed: Public Opposes Trump Crackdown on Pot - Casey Hoff - Jan 6th, 2018
- Op Ed: Anti-Marijuana Campaign Is Misguided - Isiah Holmes - Dec 8th, 2017
- Op Ed: Don’t Legalize Marijuana - Bob Dohnal - Dec 6th, 2017
- Matt Flynn Comes Out in Favor of Legalizing Marijuana - Matt Flynn - Nov 14th, 2017
- Dem Lawmakers Push To Legalize Medical Marijuana - Dave Fidlin - Nov 2nd, 2017
- Legalizing Pot Could Be Windfall For Wisconsin - Gretchen Schuldt - Sep 29th, 2017
- Op Ed: Reduce Penalties for Pot Possession - Gretchen Schuldt - Aug 7th, 2017
- Op Ed: We Must Legalize Marijuana - State Rep. David Crowley - Jul 21st, 2017
- Gov. Scott Walker Defense of Taking Donation From Marijuana Industry Advocates While Calling For More Drug Testing: $25,000 Check Too Small to Influence Him - One Wisconsin Now - Jul 21st, 2017